The Business Year

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KUWAIT - Health & Education

Alanoud Al Sharekh

Activist & Teacher, Ibtkar Strategic Consultancy


Alanoud Al Sharekh directs Ibtkar Strategic Consultancy, leading youth and gender leadership training programs and is an associate fellow at the Chatham House MENA program and a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. She is a founder of the EU Chaillot prize-winning Abolish153 campaign and of Mudhawi’s List. Her research won the Arab Prize for best publication in a foreign journal in 2014 and she has published several books. She was awarded the knighthood of the National Order of Merit by the French Government in 2016 and was chosen as one of the BBC’s 100 most influential and inspiring women in the world in 2019.

"The biggest and most obvious change has been the access to a platform."
TBY talks to Alanoud Al Sharekh, Activist & Teacher at Ibtkar Strategic Consultancy, about women’s rights and leadership.
What changes have you noticed over the past decade in terms of women’s rights and participation in the structures of society?

The biggest and most obvious change has been the access to a platform. Social media has been revolutionary in this sense. Before that, you had to be a person of a certain stature to have access to media outlets, and they had to be established to be credible. But with the advent of citizen journalism and the rise of accessible platforms many women gained a voice. I believe it is the same for young people and for all underrepresented groups with limited access to the establishment. Technology has democratized the entire process, and it was exciting especially for women in so-called conservative contexts, where men were used to speaking on their behalf. With the technology at their fingertips, women and youth suddenly gained a space to express themselves and connect without this control from another.

As a woman in a leadership position, how have you seen the participation of women in leadership positions enhance and empower the company itself?

I took a gamble on this idea of women’s and youth empowerment by opening a consultancy oriented toward the topic. There have been numerous studies done on groupthink and its pitfalls, and many others done on the benefits of group diversity, especially regarding gender. It is often the case that unless the survey within a corporation is anonymous, women feel unsure about voicing their opinions, which makes the company miss out on great feedback and progressive thinking. More often than not, the management is surprised by the kind of insight those who rarely speak up can provide. I believe this type of education to be an essential part of the process. We put plenty of emphasis on cultural sensitivities and how to translate those best practices in a way that respects the sensitivities of Kuwaiti people and their comfort zones. You want to nudge people out of their comfort zones, rather than completely overwhelming them.



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